ALOHA AIR CARGO
Aloha Airlines pilots threaten April 26 strike
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
Aloha Airlines pilots have threatened to strike the bankrupt airline a week from today if the airline continues to assign lower senority pilots to fly Aloha's inter-island cargo routes.
The Air Line Pilots Association International, which represents 312 of Aloha's current and former pilots, filed a lawsuit against Aloha Airgroup Inc. yesterday in federal bankruptcy court. The union alleges the defunct airline violated a collective bargaining agreement when it terminated the pilots March 31 and permitted pilots who were low on the seniority list to continue flying for the profitable cargo division.
The lawsuit said the airline should have furloughed all pilots in order of reverse seniority and those who lost their jobs should have received furlough pay and benefits. But by "terminating" all pilots who were not assigned to the cargo division, Aloha ignored and circumvented the seniority-based process of the contract, the lawsuit said.
"Pilots hired within the past six months remained on the company payroll, earning wages and receiving benefits, while the pilot with the second highest seniority in the entire pilot group who has been employed at Aloha for 29 years was essentially furloughed by virtue of the 'termination' letter," the complaint said. "There is only one seniority list for the entire Aloha pilot group — no differentiation or segmentation is made for passenger vs. cargo pilots. Pilots have 'system-wide' seniority."
The union is asking a federal bankruptcy court judge to issue a restraining order and force Aloha to honor the contract. The two sides have been at odds as to who should be flying the cargo flights since Aloha shut down its passenger service March 31.
Aloha said yesterday that the pilots association was "trying to hype the media with the threat of a strike as a negotiations ploy." The airline said it did not understand why a lawsuit would be filed because Aloha began training eight pilots this week and will train another 16 next week as part of the restructuring of the cargo flights based on seniority.
"No such legal right exists under the law and Aloha will take necessary legal actions to prevent any disruption to the flow of air cargo in Hawaii," the company said of the strike threat. "Following discussions with the union, Aloha has begun training senior pilots in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement and will continue to comply with the provisions of the agreement."
Aloha filed for bankruptcy on March 20 and ended its passenger service March 31. About 1,900 employees lost their jobs, but about nearly 400 workers, including 40 pilots, continued to work in the air cargo service.
Aloha is the state's largest air cargo company with about 85 percent of the market. The airline is attempting to sell the division and has accused the pilots of attempting to disrupt cargo operations.
Reach Curtis Lum at firstname.lastname@example.org.